I’ve been thinking a lot about 26 lately. What it means. What I want it to mean. Who I am now versus who I want to be. 25 has turned out to be surprisingly transformative. Sometimes it feels like a switch was flicked, like I turned 25 and became a responsible adult. And I don’t even mean that in an ironic or sarcastic way. I’ve really taken to heart that I can do anything, just not everything, and I think I’ve come a long way towards establishing what my priorities are in that regard. Friends, family. Health. Writing.
It’s been a balancing act, certainly. For the first time that I can remember, I have consciously put aside scrubbing the kitchen down or some other act of cleansing and sat and written. Or gone out with friends. Or made food. I think I may have actually gone more than a month without vacuuming and not stressed out over it. I’m getting to be okay with a certain degree of disorder, even in the kitchen, although with the cats it’s still necessary to wipe down all the counters before actually cooking anything. Oh, cats.
The hardest thing to balance, I’ve found, is my need for absolute perfection and reality. I’ve got it down for a lot of parts of my life, but one thing I keep yo-yoing back and forth on is body image. One day I’m fine with where I’m at and okay with a bit of wiggle room, and the next I’m panicking and convinced that an extra pound means I’m going to balloon back out, and then the next I’m hyper-critical, convinced that if I just tried harder, just ate better, just pushed further in my workouts, I’d have visible abs and the respect of my family.
Then these two articles came along and hit me upside the head:
The paleo community is so obsessed with optimizing every last little thing. But you don’t need optimization to be healthy. I’m doing so many things right – eating well, exercising frequently, sleeping more – but I keep chasing these optimized ideals. As if eating a specific amount of carbs at a specific time while doing a specific amount of reps and getting a specific number of hours of sleep is really going to improve my life instead of just stressing me out. If I were an athlete, maybe. But our bodies are so much more giving than that.
But that’s the hardest thing, harder than changing my diet, harder than changing my lifestyle, harder than even pushing myself those extra few seconds, those extra few reps, in the middle of a workout. I’ve never been happy with the way I looked, with how much I weighed. I’ve always battled with the scale. Even now, when I’ve clearly come so far, I still feel defeated when the scale says more than I want it to. I know I’m not overweight, I know I’m in decent shape, and yet, when I see that number, I immediately start planning ways to lose weight.
It scares me, sometimes. I know that I want to be thin and fit mostly to impress my family, not to be healthy. And I know that that is an entirely irrational reason, even a harmful one, but that doesn’t change its existence. Nor does it change my want and drive to be thinner, be stronger, for the wedding in September, because all of my family will be there and they must, must, see that I am not the rotund cousin/granddaughter/niece I used to be.
But I also know that even if I were to lose more weight and be this awesome thing, I wouldn’t be happy. I know this because I did all this for my cousin’s wedding in March. I worked hard and went out there and got a few positive comments but came home ultimately convinced I hadn’t tried hard enough. That I wasn’t thin enough.
For 25, I learned and implemented healthy eating and exercising habits. I know they worked: I feel fantastic.
For 26, I want to learn to love my body the way it is and to stop trying to impress people who don’t care or matter in the grand scheme of things. I mean, what do I expect to get from them, if I ever hit that magical weight? A card saying: “hey, this totally makes up for all those years we guilted you about eating and made you feel like the only reason you were fat was because you were a little piggy with no self control”? Yeah, the likelihood of that happening is on par with the likelihood of that every fixing everything.
I want to be okay with not having visible abs. I want to be okay with being the size I am, and maybe occasionally larger, occasionally smaller. I want to love myself for what I can do, and not what I can’t. I want to be okay with the way I am now, to throw out the scale and adjust my diet according to how I feel, not how I weigh.
I want to find that balance.